Updated: Feb 18
Sadly our NCAA career had to come to an end eventually. Both Megan and I extended our college careers as long as we could, playing four years of Division I indoor and then a fifth year playing beach volleyball, and it was now time to move on to the next step in our journey. In high school your coaches guide you on how to get recruited, what college may be like, what you need to do to get ready, you see fellow players go to college and learn from them. But when you finish college, no one is there to guide you on what the right next step is. Here we were with no coach, no teammates, and no guidance on where to start. Needless to say it was a little intimidating. It took us the summer to figure it out and we are still learning as we go but we thought we'd share with you some of the lessons we learned to help those athletes looking to go from the NCAA to the professional beach scene.
- Don't rush it. It can seem like you have to get started right away, go to tournaments immediately, and set up a perfect training regimen. We have learned to not force anything that you are not ready for, not certain of, or feel comfortable doing.
- Give yourself time to figure out what works best for your training now that you have control of your own training schedule. You no longer have a college team giving you a schedule, a workout plan, conditioning, or time frames on when to wake up, eat, or rest. This is something you get to create, which can be very liberating for some but also intimidating for others if you do not know what you need. Give your self time to figure out what works best for you by trying out different training regimens. For instance, we learned that we are more productive if we practice in the morning than in the afternoon but we also live far away from the beach so having to wake up at 5:30 am for 7:00 am practice is extremely difficult. So finding the right balance of when we should practice was key.
- It is definitely important to hire your own coach. A coach keeps you responsible, focused, sharp, and offers that feedback that can be difficult to give your partner. Jumping from coach to coach or training without coaches can make it difficult to accurately prepare for an event as your training partners and different coaches do not know what you have been doing the days you are not with them. They can't tailor practice to you based on how much you've already done that week or what you've already worked on if they do not work with you on a semi consistent basis. But at the same time, like everything else, do not rush finding a coach. Unlike in college where you do not get to choose your coach, you have full control over this. Do practices with multiple different coaches, see their different coaching styles, and note what works best for you and your team.
- Wait until you feel ready for a tournament with your new partner, and it is something you have prepared for. You will have so much time to do tournaments throughout your career so don't rush into it the month your finished college because you feel like you should. Plus, you will get so much more out of the tournament if you feel like you have accurately prepared for it. NCAA beach season finishes right in prime time for the FIVB tour, with many peak events to go to. However, don't feel like you need to jump right into events simply because they are happening. We felt the pressure to begin immediately and started seeking out every tournament we could possibly go to but it wasn't until after China that we realized we would get so much more out of choosing a few peak events and accurately preparing for them.
- Finally, if you are tired after NCAA season, take a break! So many athletes are afraid of stepping away from the game for a little break in fear that they will miss out on something or fall behind competitors, but if you really need a rest physically or mentally, forcing yourself to continue to train can be more detrimental to your game than taking time off. Be very in touch with your body and mind and listen to it's needs. A new team in the beginning stages of going professional can be fragile since it it very intimidating, and forcing one to over train can lead to a frustrating beginning to one's career.